Disney’s Times Square Gambit

Disney Store has opened its largest and most ambitious store to date -- smack in the middle of Manhattan’s Times Square. The 20,000-sq.ft., two-level Disney emporium is about five times bigger than most Disney stores, with a layout that is divided by the company’s most popular franchises.

The store offers an immersive brand experience that starts on the exterior. The storefront is made up of a digital billboard that soars 68 ft. above Times Square, and extends down to the street. Weighing over 1,000 lbs., stretching 2,250 sq. ft. and featuring 2.3 million diodes, the bright beacon showcases new and exclusive Disney content 365 days a year.

The main floor of the store is dedicated to New York-themed merchandise, including Mickey Mouse Statue of Liberties and “I Heart New York” shirts with Mickey Mouse ears in place of hearts. A swing twirls about overhead while a stylized New York City skyline rings the perimeter.

The second floor is where the action really is. Highlights include a theatre, complete with seating and activity tables, where kids can choose their own entertainment for viewing on an oversized screen, and a Ridemakerz build-your-own miniature car attraction that ties into Disney’s popular “Cars” franchise. In the Marvel area, a tower plays video of superheroes on a circular screen that uses 360-degree technology. A series of 13-ft., color-changing Lucite trees with digital projected content are scattered throughout the space.

But the centerpiece of the store is the 20-ft.-high Princess castle, complete with glittering chandelier and “magic” mirrors that, with the wave of an RFID-enabled wand, conjure up a video of Cinderella or another familiar princess.

“This store was designed to give kids the best 30 minutes of their day,” said Jim Fielding, president, Disney Store.

Disney isn’t the only big-name retailer betting on Times Square. In the past six months, Aeropostale and Forever 21 both opened massive flagships in the area, joining American Eagle Outfitters, which opened last year.

All the activity is spiking up rents: According to The Real Estate Board of New York’s Fall 2010 Retail Report, since spring 2010, retail asking rents climbed 21% to $1,700 per square foot in the Times Square corridor. There’s no secret as to what had made the area such a retail magnet: An estimated 1.5 million people pass through Times Square daily.

To watch a video of the new Disney store on opening day, go to youtube.com/watch?v=OnlBZGSLUOE&feature=player_embedded.